When thinking about the needs of children diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), several things came to my mind. Almost all children with RAD have a need to control some part of their lives.
Even as infants, children learn how to control their parents. They cry for food or when discomfortable with a wet diaper. Parents who care for their children usually jump to respond to their child’s needs. If those needs are met, they come to trust their parents.
Trust is fragile. If a child is ignored and his cries go unanswered, trust in adults is broken. This is when the child, even at a few weeks old, begins to understand there is only one person in his life he can trust. That person is himself.
If the child is abused by someone he trusted, that child begins to try to control his environment to protect himself. The older the child becomes the more his odd behaviors escalate.
It’s been said that the most dangerous animal on earth is man. Whether man or woman, these people can do enormous damage to a child. People do cruel things to animals. They can take out their uncontrolled anger on a pet or even on a helpless child.
When an adult attacks a child causing mental or physical injuries, these will follow the child throughout his life. It’s incredible what damage these people do. Practically every day, there’s a new report of a parent causing the death of their child.
I think the worst thing a parent (male or female) can do is sexually abuse an innocent child. There are reports of children as young as three months old being sexually abused. Those perpetrators are extremely sick, but so are the other people who condone it and do nothing to protect the child.
If the child is finally rescued by child protective services, the lessons of the need to protect himself are further enhanced by a series of foster homes. Some of those homes are great, some of them okay and others will take advantage of the child and cause further emotional or physical distress.
I often hear that these children should never be placed in an adoptive home. I think the underlying reason behind the comment is they feel that these children need to be placed somewhere in a locked-up facility for the rest of their lives.
My parents always told me about Boys Town in Nebraska, a few miles from where they were born. All my growing up years, my parents supported Boys Town. The philosophy of Boys Town’s originator, Father Flanagan was that there was “No such thing as a bad boy!” I personally believe that philosophy myself and add, there’s “No such thing as a bad girl” either.
Once parents can get their child to trust them and not hurt them, then the child can, and often does, relinquish that control. I’ve seen the results and feel it’s possible.
Personally, I think there should be a vast overhaul of how parenting should be taught and also, how the foster care system needs to change. There is a need to not allow unfit parents, to continue parenting. Reunification does more damage to the child who feels a need to control his own life, because adults don’t consider the child’s needs as important.
I’m a social worker with 11 years’ experience working with families of children with RAD. I’ve seen good results for these children.
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N. Ann Lamphere, MSW